Blueprint for Developing a System

basketball blueprintI watched John Beilein’s Michigan team practice the other day and besides all the really good basketball and coaching that I witnessed, my over-riding takeaway from that practice, as well as all Michigan viewings, is the uniqueness of the Beilein system.

It’s been well documented over the years that Coach Beilein never has been an assistant coach and that means he has crafted his own system over all the years at all the stops, (Erie CC, Nazareth, LeMoyne, Canisius, Richmond, West Virginia and Michigan). Now, of course, he didn’t do that in a vacuum. Even though he didn’t have an immediate mentor, his system has been borrowed from many who came before him as well as his peers. Taking bits and pieces from countless places, he put it together in his own unique way and over a long period of time.

We all know there is much to like about Coach Beilein’s system. His teams don’t foul, and don’t turn the ball over. They possess the ball without sitting on it but they can hit quickly when they need to. His man-to-man offense is complex and is based on a number of reads. His 1-3-1 half court defense is second to none as it can either speed up or slow down tempo. But, I’m not here to sell you on his system or to even go into those details. These days we have unparalleled access to that kind of technical information. As a matter of fact, I believe Coach Beilein’s man offense can be bought on this very website’s store.

However, with Coach’s Beilein’s program as an example, I would simply like to remind young coaches or reinforce for veterans that developing one’s philosophy and system is a daily, ongoing process. As simple as that sounds, it’s quite easy to get off-track. Some coaches get untracked by “flavor of the month” offenses and defenses. Some get distracted by the very real pressure of the season at hand and all the inherent issues that entails. Others yet are distracted by the dream and pursuit of their next job.

Whatever the case, those coaches who have systematically developed philosophies and systems and basically “stay the course” are generally way ahead of the game. That doesn’t mean they don’t shed or add features to their system. It just prevents them from knee-jerk or reactionary decisions.

When you watch Coach Beilein in action, there is nothing reactionary about his system or his coaching style. If his system needed another litmus test, last season his team was 16-16 after playing in the national championship game in 2013 and in the Elite 8 in 2014. His belief in the system is stronger yet after last season’s .500 finish. Why wouldn’t it be? It’s been developing since 1978 at Erie CC. The blueprint is right in front of us for every coach to be fundamentally sound, unique, proud and resolute in our ideologies.

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